So there I was lying on the Coliseum grass, just beyond the infield rim where Jemile Weeks normally mans 2B. The fog had invaded, covering up any stars. I saw closeup how well Clay Wood and his staff covered up all of the evidence of a football game just five days prior. Temperatures had dipped below 60 and the breezes were starting to kick up. At least a thousand fellow A’s fans were assembled on the field, most with blankets, some clutching cups of coffee. It was 10 o’clock, and we were waiting for Moneyball.
The movie itself was introduced by Scott Hatteberg, and just as we did in the pregame ceremony several hours earlier, we cheered players as they were announced or as they appeared on the smallish portable screen. Sound bounced off the still concrete bowl, creating an eerie, unintended echo effect. The stadium lights darkened, and for a moment everything was still, everything was perfect.
I’ve probably seen Moneyball seven or eight times now (three in theaters plus I own a Blu-ray combo pack), so the movie itself wasn’t the attraction. I didn’t go to the red carpet premiere at the Paramount, so this was as much about community as anything else. Yet I distanced myself from people and stayed way back, in an open spot as close to the cordoned off infield as possible. Every so often I would stand up and look back at the old seating bowl, where the safety lights were on and the media had cleared out of the press boxes. For better or worse, this is my second home, I said to myself.
As the movie ended, I gathered all of my things and, mindful of how long I had been there and how emotional the day was, felt absolutely exhausted. Many friends who I had seen in the Coliseum had left long ago. In light and in darkness Mount Davis stood, impressive in scale and magnitude. For once I didn’t hate the edifice. It was just sitting there, alone and somewhat forlorn, no lights on. As I started to walk toward the stairs I thought to myself, I wish one of those suites was my apartment so that I could head up there and go to sleep instead of driving home.
If I had the money and someone built it, I’d live in an apartment or condo overlooking an A’s ballpark. Not one with a postage stamp sized view like in San Diego, detached from the action. A place that was as far as the upper Mt. Davis suites are now, with a balcony. I could wake up, observe the grass get cut and the mound manicured over a cup of Aeropressed coffee. Watch as tour groups came through and wave to them in my robe smoking jacket. Head downstairs, where there would probably be some retail component, for a sandwich or pastry. And watch the game from the balcony, or head down to one of the field box seats that were mandatory to buy with the apartment lease or condo purchase.
None of this is possible at the Coliseum, of course, for myriad reasons. The Raiders need those suites to be used as suites. Mt. Davis was never built with this kind of mixed use in mind. It’s something I can still dream about at a new ballpark. Given the cost of developing a park these days, it’s not a bad way to help with the financing. Follow me on this.
When NASCAR was at its peak before the crash, several tracks built condo complexes that overlooked the action. Most often, it was rich racing aficionados who bought up the units, forgoing an RV weekend in the paddock for an pied-à-terre above the track. To me that sounds crazy, considering that most tracks will get one or two races a year plus various minor events. It doesn’t compare with 81-82 games plus concerts and whatever else the team can attract to a stadium. Yet the closest thing to a residential component we’ve ever seen is the hotel at Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), now a Marriott Renaissance property. Lew Wolff once had an interest in it, so he should know quite well how it’s run.
If someone were to experiment with this kind of feature, one can’t expect a big, 400-foot long apartment building with 200 units facing the ballpark. There’d probably be a “boutique” style building with no more than 40 units, 20 facing the ballpark, 6 stories tall, roof deck with a pool on top. How would they be sold? Upfront as condos with high HOA dues, or extremely expensive apartments? Maybe fans who aren’t one-percenters could enter a lottery for one or two units, or perhaps for a year-long lease. 25 years ago the apartments on Waveland and Sheffield outside Wrigley Field could be rented by an average family. Now they’re all corporate suites, better than the ones inside the park. In either condo or apartment form the units could provide a not-small financing piece, up to $30 million towards the ballpark’s total construction cost after factoring in overhead. That’s about as much as anyone could expect from a seat license sale, and it wouldn’t come with the uncertainty or negative vibe associated with PSLs.
Taken as part of the growing number of luxury options, these could be considered as either complementary or competitive with regular suites. The biggest difference would be the view and the access, since suites are not normally available 24/7 the way a housing unit has to be. One could even see a player or two take advantage of the convenience, though he’d have to make sure his curtains are drawn at the proper moments. That is, unless he likes the attention.